THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN, 1984
Starring: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmore, Richard Hunt, Juliana Donald, Art Carney, Joan Rivers, Dabney Coleman, Gregory Hines, Elliot Gould, Liza Minnelli, Brooke Shields, John Landis
Kermit and his friends go to New York to get their musical on Broadway only to find it's a more difficult task than they anticipated.
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New York city is not an easy place for anyone to live, especially during the eighties. Crime was higher, Times Square was smuttier, and the streets were dirtier. For some, walking home alone at night was a feat on its own. Now, if you’re three feet tall and made of fabric, it can seem overwhelming. However, this is the Muppets, and if they can’t make, what hope is there for the rest of us?
In a series of films, it is often the third movie that fails to deliver. This has been evident time and time again with movies such as “The Matrix,” “Spider-Man,” and even kid-friendly films like “Shrek.” Lucky for us, in this case, the third time is still holds the charm.
Though this is the third film in the Muppet franchise, it does not necessarily follow anything that came before it. They do not mention any of the events in any of the other movies or pretend that the “caper” even occurred. When this movie begins, the Muppets are putting on their senior play in front of their college campus. It is there last night together, and they want to leave college in a dazzling spectacle. They do this and more.
Empowered by their success, the gang decides to take their show to Broadway. Though now college graduates, they are still naÔve to the city life. They are used to simpler things at an easy pace. They are, after all, talking animals. When they arrive in the city, they spend their first night in lockers at Grand Central Station, and believe by morning, they will be on the fast track to becoming stars. Of course, if it were that simple, we wouldn’t have a movie, we would have a skit. Things quickly fall apart when they realize getting to Broadway will be more complicated then anticipated. After failing to find a producer, and desperate for money and stability, the Muppets are forced to break up and find other jobs. While everyone else leaves NYC, Kermit is determined to stay, and to make sure their play, ‘Manhattan Melodies,’ makes it to the big times.
All things considered, this is a great Muppet movie. It once again balances the scale between kid friendly humor, and throwing a wink or two in the direction of the adults in the audience. They offer family-friendly humor that more often then not throws a wink or two in the direction of adults. It offers a number of cameos, especially some featuring Henson’s old friends from Sesame Street. But, through all of this, the best thing to be said about this movie is that it gave us one of the most wonderful additions to the Muppets, especially for children, “The Muppet Babies.”
Cleverly imputing this scene into the movie by having Ms. Piggy discussing with Kermit what life would be like had they met when they were young, the Muppets flashback to a fictional past in which they all grew up in the same daycare facility. Not only was this a fun sequence in the movie, but also a smart move by the creators of the Muppet franchise. Two months after this release, the world witnessed the birth of the next Muppet creation. “Muppet Babies,” became a staple of children’s programming, which was put on its feet by this movie. Synergy at its best.
Though this is your typical Muppet movie in every definition of the term, there are a few ideas independent of the other movies. For example, in this movie, unlike the others, the Muppets do not break the fourth wall. Usually the Muppets will address the audience in some fashion or another, but in this case, they seem completely oblivious to the fact that they are involved in a movie. Also, this is the first Muppet movie to be directed by Frank Oz. He was the director of 1982 commercial and critical success “The Dark Crystal” and, proving his worth with that movie, Henson gave him the go ahead for this film. These elements make “The Muppets Take Manhattan” slightly different then the other movies. Though I believe the nods to the audience and slight nuances of the Muppets are what give them their appeal, it is only vaguely missed. It makes this movie a little different, and gives it its own charm.
In conclusion, this is not only a great Muppet movie it is a great movie all together. It is great for kids, but also provides the extra humor to appeal across all boards. Though it may not have been as commercially successful as the prior two Muppet movies, it is still a success on all fronts, commercially and entertaining wise. If you’re a fan of the Muppets, and lets face it, who isn’t, then add this to your Netflix queue. If you have seen it, watch it again and bask and the warmth of its humor.